This evergreen, grey hairy shrub is very distinctive by its tetragonal (square-shaped), upright stems. The leaves are dotted with glands which emit a very strong scent when touched, leaving a sticky, bitter-tasting residue on fingers. The whorls of flowers are found near the top of the stems, they open from the bottom upwards to the tip of the branch. The saucer-like calyx becomes inflated and papery with age. Within the calyx are found the small black seeds which will be dispersed by the wind when mature.
Salvia comes from the Latin, salvere, meaning to save or heal, referring to the healing properties of these plants.